Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Orbitals, Part XVIII

This is Part XVI, the second part of the sixth chapter. Start at the beginning.

Spencer wanted to go to the captain's chair right now. He wanted to check the ox levels and show Zephyr that she was completely off base, that Tank 1 was depleting fast and that there was no reason to believe that Tank 2 was open at all. At least, he was mostly sure that's what he would show her. That's what his gut told him. He sat at the computer instead, focusing now on the files from the media drive. He suspected the files were encrypted, but he had been forced to sit through enough one-sided phone conversations on Shackleton to have heard one of the IT guys talking about a quantum decryption service, and decided to try it.

The "shorifier" website, with an inscrutable URL, promised fast decryption of nearly any type of encrypted file. More importantly, they promised to decrypt the first thousand characters for free. He pulled a "notes.txt" out of the "Long Shadow" folder and dropped it on the website's interface. The cursor showed that the browser was working. It would be about a minute before he heard anything back from Earth, even if the process was instantaneous. It turned out the process was not instantaneous, and Spencer soon stood up and began to look around the room for a small object to play around with, or something else to keep him occupied for a couple of minutes. There was a rattling knock on the accordion door.

"Who is it?" shouted Spencer.

"It's Jean-Paul."

"Come on in."

The computer screen changed colors, indicating that the decryption was done, but Spencer was not sitting in the chair. Jean-Paul floated across the room, and held himself down on top of the food box as if he were sitting. He looked like a gargoyle on a roof in the weird light of the quarters.

"How's it going?"

"Alright. How are you?"

"I'm fine. So, I'm not going to tiptoe around this at all. You've got to stop fighting with Zephyr."

"Why don't you try telling her that?"

"We are in serious danger. I know you think it'll be easy to get where we're going, but you don't have the same experience as Zephyr. You have to let her lead. Even if she's wrong on something, we're better off having a single direction than being split in two all the time. I'm begging you. On behalf of Sabine and my two girls, I'm begging you. Get along. Do what she says. In a day or two, it'll all blow over and you never have to see her again."

Spencer sighed as hard as he could. "Fine," he hissed. "I just don't know why we have to follow so blindly. If she makes a mistake out there, we could all die."

"We'd all already be dead if she hadn't already acted."

"That doesn't mean we won't die tomorrow."

"Look. Spencer. You do what you need to so you can get peace. You look at all the dials you need. But when Zephyr says to do something, you've got to promise me you'll do it. Immediately. If you can give me that, I'll be happy."

"Fine, Jean-Paul. But I'm doing it for you. I'm not doing it for her."

"Understood. Thank you so much, Spencer. We'll get through this."

"I hope so."

"I didn't answer your question though."

"You what?"

"You asked a question earlier. 'Why don't you tell her that?' Well, I did."


"Just now. I told Zephyr the exact same thing I told you. I told her she needs to get along with you, and she needs to listen to your concerns, and I reminded her that you saved her life at least once already."

"Well, thanks, buddy, but I think you'd have had more success talking to a bulkhead."

"We'll see, Spencer. I think she'll surprise you yet."

When Jean-Paul floated out, Spencer sat back at the desk. He was fairly sure Jean-Paul hadn't seen anything on the monitor, and he woke the computer out of its screensaver mode to find the decrypted text. The service had worked. Spencer read the text. He swore deeply.